For those of us who work in the public relations industry, upholding our clients’ reputations to certain standards is a must. But when ‘fake news’ begins to circulate among several media outlets, mostly online and social media platforms, it can ruin a brand’s image, and its reputation in the public arena.
So how do public relations professionals prevent ‘fake news’ from spreading like wildfire? Here are three strategies that we recommend for this kind of communication issue:
#1 Be prepared to handle the ‘fake news’ in a timely, immediate matter. Time is of the essence. Too often, the top executives or leadership team of companies feel that ‘fake news’ is not worth being concerned about and it eventually goes away. In this ‘everything is immediate’ environment, that is not the case. Company executives along with their PR counsel need to take an immediate and proactive approach right away across all media channels (print, online and social media platforms) in order to prevent ‘fake news’ from spreading.
#2 If the fake news is first noted on a social media platform, respond on that platform first. Often you can stop the fake news quickly before traditional media takes the fake news lead as real. If the fake news has already reached the traditional media, go to number 3.
#3 Be sure to present the media with the facts. Today’s media environment has journalists crunching out a series of news stories for their own online platforms and often don’t take the time to do ‘fact checking.’ Therefore, as a PR professional, if a journalist fails to be factual in their story, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call them. Let the journalist know the ‘facts’ are not accurate and offer to explain it to them. Work with the reporter and be a resource for them. Not only are you helping them with their story, but you are developing trust with the media source in the long run.
#4 Have a communications plan in place. A good communications plan has action steps and procedures clearly outlined, and roles and responsibilities assigned to each senior team member in a company. Having a communications plan in place allows companies to reach their target audiences and achieve their goals.
Today, more than ever, companies and their public relations counsel must take a proactive approach in developing and executing communication strategies that will help prevent ‘fake news’ from spreading.